Tatsiana Shevarenkova is a Sydney based artist who creates dramatic yet utilitarian objects through a range of throwing and hand-building techniques. Tatsiana grew up in a little town called Pinsk in Belarus and holds loving memories of running through beautiful wheat fields, playing with neighbours till dark, harvesting ripe cucumbers and berries from her grandma’s yard, and secretly rescuing stray cats. After building a career as a fashion stylist in Moscow, Tatsiana moved to Australia and explored her curiosity of more tactile mediums.
As a self-taught artist, Tatsiana founded Cosset Ceramics and, moved by the biomorphic sculptors of the mid 20th Century, she began to explore sculptural forms. She is inspired by the motherly figures of Noguchi and Jean Arp. Her continuous series of planters, titled The Muses, reveres the beauty of Renaissance art, where the female body is presented as natural and charming.
“On the first day, I prepare the base using mould pressing techniques. On the following days, I improvise with curves. It takes four to five days to refine and finish the shape.”
“Hours fly by. It’s an entertaining and inspiring process. The physical sensation of touching clay is both grounding and calming.”
“...with clay, I feel freedom. What I desire to make is entirely dependent on my skill and patience.”
“I think Australian creativity is often intertwined with social change or coming to terms with itself. A process of unravelling, maybe.“
“...I’d say it’s quite relaxed and minimal. I mostly care about comfort and materials that feel nice on my skin.”
Tell me a little about your upbringing. What was your family like?
I was raised by strong women, not dissimilar to many children in post-Soviet countries, with very little presence of fatherly figures. Nonetheless, I am very lucky to have a loving older brother who looked after me. When I was 13, my family and I moved to Moscow, a city of more opportunity, to eventually study economics at a more reputable university.
How would you best describe what you do professionally?
Ultimately, what I do professionally is experiment with clay to make sculptures and lighting. There are many possible ways to theorise this, but it can be boiled down to both play and experimentation with forms.
What drew you to the practice of sculpture?
Freedom. I previously worked in fashion, and fashion imagery, which is often constrained by variables that are out of your immediate control. Realising creative ideas is contingent on the resources available at the time. On the contrary, with clay, I feel freedom. What I desire to make is entirely dependent on my skill and patience.
What do you enjoy about it?
Hours fly by. It’s an entertaining and inspiring process. The physical sensation of touching clay is both grounding and calming. Also, it feels satisfying to finish a new object and recognise its character.
What inspires your creative practice?
The contours of bodies and abstract biomorphic shapes. Shapes that look warm and welcoming. I draw inspiration from Henry Moore, Louise Bourgeois and Noguchi. However, I believe context is perhaps more important than reference. Being around and working with kind people is a motor for productivity. The company I share often inspires my practice.
Tell me about your day-to-day. Where do you live?
I live in Elizabeth Bay in a cute apartment with a garden and a lovely view of the harbour. When I don’t have any meetings scheduled in the morning, I usually take it slow. I’ll do some admin for an hour or so, then head to my Marrickville studio. I usually have 3-5 pieces going at any given time. This is followed by emails and material research which often extends well into the night. That said, I’m privileged to be able to drop everything to visit friends or go for a swim, which I often do.
What is exciting for you about the current Australian creative landscape?Although I’m still relatively new to Australia, I’ve had the luxury of being exposed to many creative practices. In Sydney, for me, what’s exciting is a community that feels youthful irrespective of age. At a much broader level, it would be remiss of me not to appreciate the social and political conditions in which Australian artists practice. There is no pressure to make compromises, as is often the case in Russia. By this, I mean anyone can make art to any end. This prospect is inherently exciting.
Do you think there’s a common thread in Australian design and creativity? Something within the realm of design or dressing that feels innately Australian?
This is a difficult question, and I’m probably misplaced to qualify anything that feels innately Australian. In any case, I’ve visited galleries and spaces in many places around the world, but nowhere seems as politically attuned. Australian artists confront their history and reckon with political issues. In this sense, I think Australian creativity is often intertwined with social change or coming to terms with itself. A process of unravelling, maybe.
How would you describe your personal style?
I rarely consider it, but I’d say it’s quite relaxed and minimal. I mostly care about comfort and materials that feel nice on my skin.
Who are some of your favourite designers (local and international)?
Locally, I like Deiji Studios, Albus Lumen and Matteau. I like Margiela, Bottega under Daniel Lee, Totême with Elin Kling and Karl Lindman, and Simone Rocha. Also, the dreamy Albina Zueva in Saint Petersbourg - founder of MY812.
Is there a piece from your wardrobe that you ‘can’t do without?
White pants. It sounds like a ridiculous choice for such a messy occupation, but the truth is, white pants make me look half decent. When clay dries on the clothes, it turns white, unless it’s red, then I’m in trouble.
Who are your idols?
Cats. For their gentleness and grace.
What or who is currently inspiring your world?
I admire sculptors who dedicated their entire lives to craftsmanship, like Schlegel, Noguchi or Brancusi. I want to know what urged them to spend their days in dusty studios and what drew them to particular materials. In the studio, I’ve been listening to David Bowie, Boy Harsher, and Martin Dupont.
Describe your workspace - where is it located, and what do you need around you to feel creatively motivated?
I’ve recently changed studios and am still settling in. My new space is in Marrickville, shared with four other talented ceramicists. To help myself concentrate and begin working with clay, I burn incense. Lots of incense. I hope it doesn’t annoy my new neighbours. But I won’t be able to create a thing if I have even a tiny amount of mess around me. Cleanliness and music is all the motivation I need.
Can you describe the process of creating one of your artworks?
For my sculptures, I use grogged clays and coil-building techniques. I allow the clay to guide me rather than forcing anything on it. I challenge myself with ideas and shapes while observing and learning from the forms of which the clay wants to take. Once I’m pleased with the form, I work on the contours and the texture. Although I research and experiment with glaze recipes, most of the time, I keep my work unglazed for its natural look. Lastly, I prefer earthenware firing as it places less stress on my shapes.